Westtown High School

1 – 14 March 2014

Quotes from the participants of the Westtown Senior Project

“The narrow and labyrinth like streets in the Old City had merchants along the sides selling candy, fresh fruit, clothes,

and jewelry. We were led by our tour guide to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and to the Wailing Wall (the Western Wall).”

“Our tour guide, Jeff Halper is an Israeli Jew who belongs to the Israeli Commission Against Housing Demolitions, gave us his perspective about the conflict, some of which was completely opposite of the Dar Ramot family. Driving around East Jerusalem in the city of Silwan, which has been changed to the City of David, where the Palestinians live, opened our eyes to the stark difference between the living conditions of the Palestinians and Israelis.”

“Today (Wednesday) we went to Nazareth. We went to the Basilica of Annunciation, Nazareth Village museum, the Church of Multiplication (Jesus served bread and fish), Church of Primacy of St. Peter (Jesus sifted post resurrection), Capernum (located on Sea if Gaillee) and the Church of Beatitudes.”

“We woke up before 6 AM so that we could get a photo of the sun rising above the Dome of the Rock. Later that morning, we went to the Holocaust Museum, and then drove to Bethlehem in the West Bank for dinner and dancing with our host students! We also went shopping in the Old City where we had to bargain for a good price.”

“Our days have been packed with meetings, conversations, lectures, tours, and visits to holy sites and museums. I have been wanting to see Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem, for a long time. I was thrilled to dip my toes in the Sea of Galilee; and standing in a circle outside the church on the Mount of the Beatitudes, and reading from the Sermon on the Mount on a beautiful sunny afternoon was simply breathtaking. I have been excited to see the Dome of the Rock and the churches in Jerusalem, Galilee, and Bethlehem. I have been struck by the walls: the Western Wall, the walls of churches, temples, and mosques…I have seen pilgrims touch or kiss the thresholds of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the Church of the Nativity, and the Wailing Wall, and a Druze Temple with great devotion…I have seen the “Security Wall” covered with graffiti as it cuts across Palestinian neighborhoods and refugees camps. There are walls that divide and walls that connect.”

“One of our hosts said to me, ‘Many people come to visit the holy sites, but they don’t take the time to meet and connect with people. Beyond the stones of the church itself – what about the people who worship there – the living stones?’”

“Our Senior Project is affording us amazing opportunities to see the sites and the rugged beauty of the land, and to get to know and hear the stories of people who live and work and struggle and celebrate life and seek peace and justice here. I believe that education like this, in which we connect with and learn from people who live halfway around the world and on both sides of this enormously complex conflict, who sometimes even can’t or won’t talk to each other, can make a difference.”
“The next two and a half days were an immersion experience, and those conversations and interactions happened on both campuses of the school, as we attended classes, engaged with speakers, visited a local mosque and a play center in the Amari Refugee Camp supported by Quaker organizations, and played ‘football.’ The dialogues have been riveting as students from both schools have shared their experiences with passion, conviction, and open friendliness.”

“It’s been an amazing trip, and I’m so grateful that I was able to be a part of it. Before the trip I barely knew anything about the conflict, but I have come out with a plethora of knowledge. Meeting people face to face was the most important aspect of the trip. It allowed me to put faces to the conflict. It is much different to meet people rather than hearing their stories through the media that sometimes skews the facts because of bias viewpoints.”

“Israel and Palestine are a land of conflicts, contrasts, and contradictions: stunning natural beauty, magnificent holy sites, rapid development, shocking poverty, intertwined and seemingly irreconcilable narratives and perspectives about the land, the occupation, human rights, and how to find common ground and move forward. The Western Wall, the Dome of the Rock, the churches, have been inspiring to me, even more so the people, the “living stones.” We have been blessed to be among Jews, Muslims, Christians, and Druze, all of whom are striving to live up to their highest selves. The hospitality of the families we stayed with will always stay with me. In the quest for commonalities in spiritual traditions in this challenging time, perhaps hospitality and compassion could be a new metaphor.”

“I am deeply grateful for having been able to be part of this Project.”

“It has been the trip of a lifetime, one which I am sure will transform me forever.”

“I celebrate the ongoing, vibrant and durable friendship between our two schools, half a world apart, who share a commitment to peace and to creating global problem solvers and difference makers.”